For Jenny Fletcher, working as a primary school classroom assistant for nine years inspired an interest in language that has resulted in a first class honours BSc in language and linguistics.
The Newtownabbey woman attended the University of Ulster as a mature student and it was during her second year that she received a dyslexia diagnosis – something she had suspected for many years.
“My own educational experiences, particularly at primary school level, have played a massive part in my interest in language and linguistics,” said Jenny.
“These experiences were horrific. Spelling and correct grammar were literally drummed into me, but yet the education system at primary, secondary and third level failed to recognise that I am dyslexic.
“It was thanks to my tutors and Student Support Services at the University of Ulster that I was finally diagnosed.”
She added: “I couldn’t have asked for better support. My lecturers were my lifeline and I am truly grateful. I could not have achieved my degree without each and every one of them.
“I’ve had a dream to teach for as long as I can remember. However, I never ever believed that I had the ‘brains’ for university.
My role as a classroom assistant involved me providing one-to-one support for two children with special educational needs. Both of whom experienced language difficulties and both worked alongside a speech and language therapist, as did I.
“The work carried out in these sessions widened my views and give me the firm opinion that all children could benefit from primary teachers with linguistic knowledge and experience.
“I would like to express sincere thanks to the University of Ulster and the linguistics department, particularly to Dr Catrin Rhys for advising me to take the steps to getting diagnosed and supporting me in the correct manner,” said Jenny.